By Lawrence Edwards
The 2016 NFL season kicked off last night and it definitely did not disappoint. The defenses are really the groups who made this game interesting. Cam did have some success against Denver’s defense but Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were back wreaking havoc on Cam Newton. Last nights game kicked off the season in great fashion and here are some things we learned.
- Kelvin Benjamin is back! On Carolina’s opening drive, after a forced fumble on rookie running back Devontae Booker, Cam Newton led Carolina down the field and capped off the drive with a touchdown throw to Kelvin Benjamin, who looks like a giant out there next to opposing defensive backs. He finished with 6 receptions for 91 yards and 1 TD. He was hit in the back of the legs early in the game and sat out a series but returned to the game and finished unscathed. Newton will enjoy a pretty good season this year with Benjamin back to go along with Greg Olsen.
- Carolina’s defense didn’t miss Norman much so far. The Panthers were beat by Denver’s defense and the legs of C.J. Anderson (more on him later). Charles Johnson forced a fumble on the Denver’s first drive allowing Cam to strike early, rookie corner Bene Benwikere had a nice leaping interception which was short armed by Trevor Simean after Luke Kuechly and company put the heat on him. Panthers defense also got another pick when DT Star Lotulelei tipped a pass up in the air and Thomas Davis came up with it. Carolina’s defense should be just fine going forward. The rookie corners passed their first test of the season.
- C.J. Anderson is the real deal. A few years ago when Anderson first came on the scene with Ronnie Hillman, there was a lot of talk about Denver running backs only being good because of the presence of Peyton Manning. That may have held true for Knowshon Moreno but Anderson had a different story to tell. His first season as the true lead in back in Denver’s offense if off to a great start. Anderson proved that his talent is all him and not tied to Manning. He finished with 20 carries for 92 yards and 1 TD and 4 receptions for 47 and a TD. Anderson played well against a stout defense and was by far Denver’s star performer on offense last night. Anderson is in for a big year because Simean will be leaning on him heavy in the run game and on check downs and short passes.
- The Broncos will be just fine with Trevor under center as long as that defense doesn’t miss a beat. Despite the two INT’s – both which were caused just by great plays by Carolina’s defense and not mistakes by Simean – Trevor looked calm and poised in the pocket. Early in the game he smartly pump faked a rushing defender on a screen pass to get the ball in the hands of Demaryius Thomas. His throws were on target and he was getting the ball out of his hands extremely quick. With Denver’s dominant defense, Simean will only need to control the game and take advantage of the opportunities and short yardage situations the defense will create for him. Simean did well in his first test against one of the leagues top defenses.
- Denver’s defense will not miss the departures of Danny Trevathean and Malik Jackson. Some people thought Denver’s defense would take a slight step back because those two were key pieces in their Superbowl run last season, but Denver showed that as long as Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are healthy and wreaking havoc in opposing backfields, the Broncos are going to be just fine this year. They will still compete for the division title.